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DFP won't say if it met men linked to Nama sale

TUV leader Jim Allister has called on the Department of Finance "to come clean" on its dealings regarding Nama. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

THE Department of Finance has come under fire for refusing to detail any meetings it may have had with two people linked to the sale of Nama's northern loan book.

TUV leader Jim Allister asked for details of any meetings with Ian Coulter, the lawyer at the centre of the Nama scandal, and businessman Frank Cushnahan.

He also asked for details of any meetings the department may have had with Gareth Robinson, son of DUP leader Peter Robinson.

Gareth Robinson, who works in public relations, has previously denied any involvement in the sale of Nama's northern loan book.

Finance committees on both sides of the border are examining the £1.3 billion sale of the loan book to US firm Cerberus last year.

Police are also investigating claims that £7 million linked to the sale was earmarked for a northern politician or party.

A written Assembly question, submitted by Mr Allister, asked for the "date and purpose of all ministerial and/or departmental meetings held in the last five years with Ian Coulter, Frank Cushnahan and Gareth Robinson."

But the department said the information "is not held centrally and the cost involved in collating it would be disproportionate."

"I find it shocking that the department of finance and personnel minister (the DUP's Arlene Foster) can’t say how many meetings her department and predecessors has had with Gareth Robinson or Frank Cushanan or Ian Coulter," Mr Allister said.

"The answer which came back does not deny such meetings, but claims the cost of collating the information would be disproportionate...it is yet another unanswered Nama question."

In response to a separate question about how and when the department informed the Executive of the attempt by Pimco to purchase the loan book, the Department of Finance (DFP) said there "is no record" of the Nama sale being discussed at Executive meetings or "wider briefings provided to Executive colleagues".

Mr Cushnahan, a former Nama advisor, stood to earn £5 million in fees should Pimco have won the bid.

Mr Allister also queried whether a letter about Nama from then Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to the Republic's Minister for Finance Michael Noonan meant that the issue had been discussed by the Executive.

"Patently, DFP needs to come clean on all its dealings which are Nama related," he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay, chair of Stormont's finance committee, said collating the information "wasn't a massive ask".

"It is important that this information is made transparent," he said.

"We need to see a whole sea change in how DFP deals with requests around Nama."

"Peter Robinson is due to appear before the committee on Wednesday. We asked for documents from OFMDFM relating to Nama and the head of the civil service has written to us to say that the correspondence will not be available in time."

He added: "I don't think that is good enough. All ministers and civil servants need to start taking this issue seriously."

The Department of Finance did not respond to a request for comment.

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